Women Don’t Make A Personal Connection To Heart Disease, Yet It Is Their Greatest Killer

Survey shows that an alarming 45 percent of women ages 25-60 don’t know heart disease is their number one killer.

In September 2014, the Women’s Heart Alliance commissioned GfK, an international research firm, to survey women to better understand their awareness and perceptions of women’s heart disease. More than 1,000 U.S. women ages 25-60 were interviewed using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®. Key findings from the survey are represented below.

Even though heart disease is the #1 killer of U.S. women, women are not making a personal connection to the disease
• Nearly half (45%) of U.S. women ages 25-60 are not aware that heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S.
• Only about one in four (27%) can name a woman in her life with heart disease
• Even fewer (11%) can name a woman who has died from it

Women are not initiating heart health conversations with their doctors
• Nearly half (46%) say they almost never bring up the subject of heart health with their doctor; another 25% only bring it up on some visits
• Many (49%) of these women assume their doctor will bring it up if there is a problem

And women are not talking to their family and friends about heart health—social stigma is partly to blame
• The majority (76%) of women ages 25-60 say they rarely or never discuss heart health with family and friends
• One in four (26%) agrees that “having problems with your heart is embarrassing, people just assume you are not eating right or exercising”

Lack of awareness of key heart disease risk factors—and of their own risk—is another reason women are not discussing heart disease
• Fewer than half of women ages 25-60 understand the links between heart disease and other conditions, like diabetes (43% understand the connection), autoimmune disease (19%), pregnancy complications (21%), early menopause (10%) and irregular periods (5%)
• 74% report having one or more heart disease risk factors, yet only 16% say they have been diagnosed or told they are at risk by their doctor

Many women are taking a “wait and see” approach to heart health
• 38% of U.S. women ages 25-60 report having a moment when they thought there might be something wrong with their heart
• 32% of these women did nothing in that moment (i.e., they did not call a doctor or 911)
• 63% admit to putting off going to the doctor at least sometimes
• In fact, women are more apt to put off going to the doctor than put off doing their taxes (63% vs. 27%)
• 37% have been instructed by a doctor to make changes to improve their heart health, but just 10% have actually made most of these changes

There is a potential disconnect between women and doctors on whether women have had assessments related to heart health
• 70% of women ages 25-60 report having had a routine physical or wellness exam in the past year, yet just 40% report having had their heart health assessed by a doctor during this timeframe
• 45% report their doctor performing at least one of nine key steps to assess heart health
• Conducting a physical (41%) and asking about family history (37%) are the most commonly reported
• Just 1-in-50 (2%) women report their doctor calculating their 10-year or lifetime heart disease risk

There are elements of confusion and misinformation when it comes to heart disease research
• 41% of women ages 25-60 do not realize that a woman’s heart is actually different than a man’s
• 76% are unaware that heart disease research is primarily conducted on men
• Yet, a majority (62%) feel that the medical tests they undergo must or probably should be designed for a woman

There is a strong sense that more needs to be done
• 82% of women ages 25-60 agree that the medical community needs to do more to inform women about the threat of heart disease
• Three in four (75%) agree that women’s heart disease needs more attention in medical school and training